Cownie Statehouse Report: Iowa Shortchanged if Military, Business Leaders Can't be School Superintendents
Law prohibiting CEO or a general in the military from being an Iowa school superintendent needs to change.
By Rep. Peter Cownie
I believe in local control for schools in Iowa. I believe decisions are best made when officials at the local level make them. The theory goes that local officials know their schools best and are most qualified to make decisions governing them. I agree
There are, nevertheless, problems with this school of thought. The State provides blanket funding (allowable growth) for schools. The majority of a school district’s funding comes from the State. The State Board of Education passes rules that affect all schools, and the State Legislature certainly passes reforms for all schools in Iowa. These facts alone are contrary to local control of schools.
"Our best leaders, whether in business or the military, should be hiring options for any Iowa school district, and our State should welcome these leaders to serve our schools."
As I wrote above, I am not one of those individuals; and that is why I was so disappointed when I learned of the recent decision of the State Board of Educational Examiners to table a proposal that would allow business and military leaders to serve as superintendents of school districts in Iowa.
Currently, a CEO or a general in the military cannot be a superintendent of an Iowa school district according to Iowa law. The law states that school superintendents need to have a background in education to be considered.
This law needs to be changed.
Please do not get me wrong. A strong background in education certainly might make for a fine superintendent. I have worked with superintendents who have backgrounds in education and I have found them to be extremely qualified and committed when it comes to doing their jobs.
But why limit the size of the net that might be cast when it comes to finding the right person for the job? And why limit those local individuals who know the district best from making the ultimate hiring decision?
District leaders should have the ability to hire a business or military leader to direct their schools when they deem appropriate, and I have filed a bill to make this Iowa law. As of now, a retired CEO of John Deere is not qualified to be superintendent of an Iowa school district, nor would be the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard.
The State Board of Educational Examiners has asked for a two month extension to further examine this issue, which, in my opinion demonstrates an ineffective board not showing the necessary leadership to make a critical decision at a critical time.
Our best leaders, whether in business or the military, should be hiring options for any Iowa school district, and our State should welcome these leaders to serve our schools.
I am confident that what these individuals have achieved in the private sector, or in the military, would translate well into leading our schools. This law needs to change; and if our appointed State Board of Educational Examiners will not seek that change then I am hopeful the Iowa Legislature will. When it comes to doing what’s best for the children of Iowa, no stone should go unturned.
(Rep. Peter Cownie, a West Des Moines Republican, represents Iowa House District 42. Call him at 515-281-3221 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)